Christian Horner says Esteban Ocon’s driving in the Brazilian Grand Prix was “irresponsible” and the Red Bull Team Principal blames the Frenchman for robbing Max Verstappen of back-to-back Formula 1 race wins after the two drivers collided.
On lap 43 of the race in Sao Paulo, race leader Verstappen attempted to lap Ocon, who was outside of points at the time, but the pair came together and both drivers spun out. The incident allowed Lewis Hamilton to retake the lead of the race, which he held until the end. Verstappen was left to finish in P2, 1.5 seconds adrift of the Mercedes.
At the time of the incident, Max Verstappen described Ocon as an “idiot” for his role, a comment he would then repeat in the immediate post-race interview with Paul Di Resta. “I have no words,” Verstappen said.
Then, a scuffle between Verstappen and Ocon broke out in the FIA garage as the drivers were weighed. Footage captured by Canal+ Sport, a French broadcaster, shows Verstappen pushing Esteban Ocon three times before storming out. Ocon does not push back, but does put his hand forward in protest as the pair exchange words that were not captured my microphones.
“Why on earth is he racing the leader?” Christian Horner asked when interviewed by Sky Sports F1 in the immediate aftermath of the race. “You shouldn’t interfere with the leader,” he said. When questioned about the physical contact between the drivers, Horner said Ocon was “lucky” to receive just a push, as the contact cost Verstappen a race victory. “Max has been pretty restrained,” he added.
Later, the FIA summoned both drivers for breaching Article 12.1.1.c, citing “physical contact with another competitor” as the reason. The Stewards, after holding a hearing with both drivers, determined Verstappen had failed to “act appropriately” as a role model. As a punishment, he will serve two days of public service within the next six months.
Verstappen, after the physical altercation with Ocon, continued to criticize the Frenchman in the post-race press conference. When asked about the scuffle, he told reporters he didn’t have anything to comment, “except that he [Ocon] was being a pussy.”
When asked whether Ocon’s 10 second stop/go penalty was severe enough as a punishment, Verstappen lamented that “at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what penalty he gets” because it wouldn’t give him the race victory.
“I don’t know what you want me to say, it’s always bad when you get taken out from the lead,” Verstappen said.
Esteban Ocon, speaking after the race, told reporters he’d been advised by Force India to overtake Verstappen, as he was quicker and had been stuck behind the Red Bull for two laps. “Max didn’t give me any space,” Ocon proclaimed post-race, pointing out that he couldn’t just “disappear” on the apex of turn 2.
Force India Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer said he completely disagreed with the penalty when talking to Sky Sports F1 during the race. He also denied any conspiracy theory that Ocon had deliberate intentions, given he is part of the Mercedes Junior Team and his collision primarily benefitted Mercedes.
The incident prevented Verstappen from securing his second consecutive race
“We should’ve won today,” he said post-race.